Amazing. Google has made a giant step toward creating a practical search engine of legal materials. Click on the link above the check it out. Google's new Legal Opinion and Journals (LOJ) is not a Wexis, or VHPPLM killer. It is a game changer in the "free law," community.
Here are a few initial comments about it. First, it is still classically a Google product. By this I mean that they spend little time working on user interface. It is what it is. We tend to forgive Google for all it's faults because it simply has little competition and it's so quick, easy to use that the annoyances of the way the search results and options are presented to you are forgiven. It's quick and easy. Forget the clutter.
Second, it's amazingly snappy. Searches on any topic I threw at it, in any combination of databases were returned in the blink of an eye.
Third, the "How Cited," tab is fascinating and provides quick access to raw citation information on the case. Like everything Google, there's little help distinguishing one cite from another, but there is help. And the information provided is good. The speed of the Google engine can make drilling down to particulars very quick - even if it means that you have to wade through hundreds of cases. Clicking from case to "How Cited" tab, to case, one can quickly get lost, but if you keep your wits about you, you can learn some interesting things about the case you're researching.
Fourth, it is unclear just exactly what you're searching when you use Google Scholar's Legal Opinions and Journals, (GSLOJ). When you click on the Advanced Search link, you get choices of, "Search all legal opinions and journals," or searching only Federal opinions or individual state court opinions. State court opinions can be searched in any combination, just by clicking boxes and selecting the states that you want to search. Trouble is, there is no description of what library of journals is being searched, or what are the years of coverage for case databases. Do the Nebraska cases, for example, go back ten years, twenty, or two. It's hard to say.
Fifth, there are no statutes or regulations to be found in/on LOJ. What's with that?!
Sixth, you can't search only Law Journals. With the growing movement to develop digital commons, and to move law reviews to the web, it would be immensely helpful to be able to mine this vein of secondary material.
Overall, Google Scholar's new LOJ is a welcome entry into the free online legal research community. I don't think that West or Lexis have much to worry about, but LII, Justicia, et al, may have "competition."
What impact this will have on Law.Gov, "Free Law," and kerfuffles? This is certainly a game changer.
For the Official Explanation: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/11/finding-laws
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